One of the misconceptions (and that may have been due to a scene in “Enemy of the State”) I had about the US before I came here was that premier lingerie shops in the US (which I then thought was Victoria’s Secret) employed models who live-demoed their merchandise.
This sensualized ideal lasted till my first visit to Victoria’s Secret (let me assure you not to wear their products myself), an experience that was a huge let-down.
Firstly, with an outlet in almost every major mall, I realized that it was not as exclusive as I had once thought. Secondly the only lingerie-clad models you were likely to encounter were two-dimensional black-white representations of beautiful women framed on the walls and under diffused lighting. And thirdly the most shocking thing about the place were the prices on the tags, constituting perhaps the highest dollars per thread number you would encounter (unless you went to places like Saks Fifth Avenue, which I avoid).
It must be accepted that, to their credit, Victoria’s Secrets shops try their best to be as seductive as possible with a very “sex shop” decor, lots of mirrors, the right lighting and the use of bright pink against silver and dressing rooms that says “Strip” in bright pink letters on the wall-length mirror (Again let me re-assert that I did not find this out while trying on a product myself .)
And if you are a geek with an interest in structural engineering there are enough practical uses of concepts of support, cantilevers and the strength of materials to keep them engaged for days on end.
There is also the chuckle-raising realization as your eyes scan over the assembled wares that this is the only place in the world where a D is better than an A and a DD is given for extra effort.
At the very least, a VS store is a few steps above the Indian “hosiery” store where storekeeprs would shout “Ei namaa to opor theke ekta aath-threesh boudir jonne” (Ei throw down a 38 for “boudi” here) with all the subtlety of Shatabdi Express and where Gopal ganjee (baniyan) cartons share space with Belle Extra Support (for some reason whenever I looked surreptitiously at those cartons, past the disapproving stare of the store uncle, the only thing that came to my mind were season cricket balls with prominent seams—-what would Wasim Akram do if he got hold of such a prominent seam I thought)
However all the sensuality of the Victoria’s Secret experience, the little that remained, was wiped out yesterday. As I waited outside the changing rooms, in came 3 short and corpulent Punjabi middle-aged ladies (well above 50—their age that is) with their Hindi/Punjabi breaking the relative silence like a scythe through the sarson da kheth.
One of them went to the panties station and took 5 of them in her hand and started rummaging through them as if searching for fresh potatoes. Another went to a mannequin and started rubbing the mannequin’s bottom while pointing to the third, in Hindi, that she did not want this kind of “bikini-wala” underwear.
Because, as she said with a “sharmili” smile — ‘”usko” woh pasand naheen hain’.
One of the aunties, whose English skills seemed better than the two, described somehow what she thought the other aunty wanted.
The saleslady took them to the thongs section.
Then the Aunty, who was evidently going to get dressed up in the ensemble to please “woh”, blurted out to the saleslady what else she needed.
Yes you heard that right. Topless bras. Now some of you might think that it is an oxymoron like “non-alcoholic wine” but I somehow realized what she wanted, before the confused saleslady did.
She wanted strapless bras.
And then she showed with her hands, in a manner I dare not describe, that she wanted them to be push-up.
At that moment, a very disturbing mental picture formed in my demented mind—- Punjabi aunty, mid 50s, in a strapless push up and thongs dancing seductively in front of “woh”, with a rose between her lips to the tune of “Singh is King”—an image that will require serious exorcism to be wiped away.
Move aside Giselle Bundchen. Step up Gurinder Bundchen.
Lingerie buying at Victoria’s Secret, at least for me, will never be the same again.